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St John the Baptist, Great Clacton, Essex

(51°48′17″N, 1°9′22″E)
Great Clacton
TM 177 165
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
25 September 2014

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The village of Great Clacton has now been subsumed by the conurbation that is Clacton-on-Sea, although it retains a recognisable village centre around the church. St John’s is essentially a surprisingly large Norman church, although it was heavily restored by E. C. Hakewill in 1865-66. In its present state it has a broad and lofty 12thc nave, a chancel remodelled in the 14thc, and a 15thc W tower with angle buttresses that was completed with a timber bell stage and octagonal spire in 1810. The 19thc battlements were replaced in 1913 by a balustrade. On the N side of the chancel, Hakewill added a 2-bay aisle, now used for storage, and he rebuilt the chancel E wall, introducing neo-Romanesque E windows. All the external window details are Hakewill’s, but some 12thc features remain, notably the N and S nave doorways and the internal doorway to the tower stair. The chancel arch is Norman, but heavily restored, and flat 12thc buttresses on the exterior of the nave correspond to similar ones inside, indicating that it was originally vaulted. In addition, there are 12thc stringcourses inside and out, and a fragment of 12thc carving reset in a tower buttress.


Great and Little Clacton together formed a manor of 20 hides held by the Bishop of London in 1066 and 1086. In addition to the ploughland there were 20 acres of meadow, pasture for 100 sheep and woodland for 400 pigs, as well as a mill and a fishery. This substantial manor was home in 1086 to more than 100 listed people, indicating a total population of around 500. Five knights held 4 hides of the 20 from the bishop.

The church was built by Bishop Richard de Belmeis (1108-28), who founded St Osyth’s Priory and gave it to that foundation.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Vaulting/Roof Supports


Interior Decoration

String courses

The similarities with Copford are marked, especially in the remains of vaulting in the nave, and Copford, like Great Clapton, was held by the Bishops of London.

Pevsner (1954) was very critical of Hakewill's 1865 restoration.


J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 400-01.

Historic England Listed Building 119884

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 182.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3: North East (1922), 113-15.

Victoria County History: Essex II (1907), 157-62 (on St Osyth’s Abbey)

T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex, vol. 2 (1836), 791-92.